Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Miniature Earth, India at $1/ Day and Landfill "Picker" Etiquette

For many in India, landfill is a livelihood and a home

Since our inception, The Sabot School of Etiquette has been including with its workbook for each student, a handout from: This website boils the world population down to a small community of 100 people. Among other social, ethnic, religious and economic statistics, The Miniature Earth Project states that 47 people within this community of 100 live on $2 per day, and 25 people live on $1 per day.

As Director of The Sabot School of Etiquette, this handout is important to me personally because I have lived abroad and traveled extensively throughout Europe and the Caribbean, and I want to show our students how fortunate they are to live in America and how well we live here in this great country. However, reading this article about India's landfill "pickers" left me agape, flummoxed and gobsmacked. This article from The Los Angeles Times entitled: "Landfill is a livelihood for many people in India", by Mark Magnier, is to say the least, starkly shocking.

 With India's growing middle class, there is growing consumption, therefore, growing garbage. At the bottom of a traditionally cultural "caste system" which unfortunately still exists in India today, people literally line up to risk their health and lives, for a job known as a "Picker." These hard working human beings, born into the lowest class of India's caste system, are striving to feed their families, rise above their class, earn money to educate their children, and do better for their families.

It is hard to believe in a modern, global, Internet driven, social network world of 2012, any government would have its citizens, adults and children, picking through acres of already picked through garbage at all, especially with no shoes or gloves, and would further have these brave souls just trying to survive and feed their families, to then have to pay 50% of their daily $2 earnings to a boss for "rent", so they may have a cardboard shack of a 2 room "house" to live in with 1 light bulb for 6 people in their tiny dwelling. Apparently, there are many people in line for these "picker" jobs.

The landfill even has its hierarchy and etiquette. The article states: "Buyers pay 5 cents a pound for plastic bags and $18 (per pound) for human hair, used for wigs." Fights for turf are common, so the article advises: "Some finer points of picker etiquette: Don't talk to bulldozer drivers, and scrounge only what is in front of you." The new news is that the government is thinking about streamlining and automating these landfills, leaving its 1.7 million garbage "Pickers" without a job, without any alternative job, or any hope for any kind of life.

The story told in this article is an absolute testament to the virtuous human spirit, even in the midst of an emerging modern society, an inept government, what should be an outdated class "caste" system, religious bias, and the most horrible work conditions anyone could ever imagine. 

There is an old saying in India: "Everything will be all right in the end." Wow. Lovely sentiment, but what about the here and now?

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